A front-page headline in Sunday’s New York Times: “To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind Bars.”
Well, yes–that is sort of the point of a life term. You do something very wicked and you will die behind bars.
The New York Times seems to think that it is a huge injustice that Jackie Lee Thompson, 50, an exemplary prisoner, who has learned many skills and obtained a high school diploma and business associate’s degree in his 35 years behind bars, is being required to serve out a life sentence.
Here, in the words of the Times, is how Mr. Thompson got in this fix:
“In the winter woods near Gaines, Pa., on the day before New Year’s Eve in 1969, four 15-year-olds were hunting rabbits when Charlotte Goodwin told Jackie Lee Thompson a lie. They had been having sex for about a month, and she said she was pregnant.
“That angered Jackie, and he shot Charlotte three times and then drowned her in the icy waters of Pine Creek.”
Are you bothered by the second and third shot?
“We can forgive him,” Duane Goodwin, Charlotte’s father, is quoted saying. “Why can’t you?”
I am glad Mr. Goodwin has forgiven Mr. Thompson–I’d hate to think of his being eaten up with hatred in addition to losing his daughter. Forgiveness is a good thing. It is spiritually everything–and legally nothing.
I’m with the prosecutor: “He shot her with a pump-action shotgun, three times. This was a cold-blooded killing,” prosecutor Tom Corbett said at a parole hearing.
The Times notes that when Mr. Thompson was sentenced, the judge said, “You will always have hope in a thing of this kind. We have found that, in the past, quite frequently, if you behave yourself, there is a good chance that you will learn a trade and you will be paroled after a few years.”
That would not be my hope for Mr. Thompson. Freed, he might encounter another woman who told him a lie or face other difficulties in life that set him off.
But that is a utilitarian argument. The moral argument is that it is just for Mr. Thompson to die behind bars. He does not deserve freedom.
This is just the latest New York Times sob story that will fail to evoke tears from normal people.